U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team head coach John Hackworth answers questions about the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
How will the U.S. Soccer Development Academy help improve the development of the elite American player?
“The U.S. Soccer Development Academy will help improve the development of the elite American player by providing a daily training environment and a consistently competitive game schedule. Moving towards an environment where they are practicing three to five times a week, compared to once or twice, and playing high-level, meaningful and competitive matches every week, will provide them with a consistent setting that will allow them to learn and develop at a much higher rate.”
The philosophy behind the U.S. Soccer Development Academies is rooted in the success of the U-17 Residency Program. Can you tell us about the original thought process behind the creation of Bradenton and how that philosophy can be applied to the clubs involved in the Development Academy?
“The idea of the U.S. Soccer U-17 Residency Program was to take the elite players in that age group and put them in a place where we can make sure they are getting the appropriate training and competitive matches, so they can develop and reach their full potential. Getting the chance to be a part of that elite environment wasn’t always available at the club level, at least not on a consistent basis. We’ve been doing it on a small scale with first 20 and now 40 players, but the Development Academy will allow us to spread that number exponentially to thousands across the nation. Over the years, we’ve seen how the U-17 Program has worked well in player development so the more we can get in a similar environment, the better.”
How will the Academy impact your ability to identify players for the Residency Program at Bradenton?
“By taking on this model, these great players are going to become our elite players because they will be training and competing in a high-level environment where they can push each other and develop. It will make our job identifying players for the national team significantly easier because we’ll have these localized areas where we can watch the majority of the elite players in the nation, rather than being forced to bounce around to a sporadic amount of tournaments and other games around the country. We still need to continue to look at all avenues to find players across the U.S. and continue to close those cracks players can slip through, but the Academy will be the main place for elite players to play and develop, and therefore we know the best players will on average be coming out of this program, so our scouting will be more organized.”
How will the Bradenton Residency model benefit local elite clubs?
“The clubs that are selected for this will basically become little mini-Residency Programs, or localized Residency Programs. Any player that thinks they are at that level and wants to become better can seek out these clubs involved in the Development Academy. Instead of just having teams and playing games, it will give these clubs a structure where they are helping with player development and therefore improve the overall development of the game in this country.”
Explain the thought process behind including the players in the Residency Program in the Academy.
“We are essentially asking the clubs to do what we are doing here in Bradenton at the U-17 Residency Program, so we want to practice what we preach. We believe it is extremely important that players train and play meaningful games. Our players will then be playing against all these other kids that want to be in the same position as them. That will allow us to compare the national team players to the larger player pool, which helps us continually evaluate who belongs at the highest level.”
Explain the thought process behind the requirement for each player to start at least 30 percent of their team’s games.
“This thought process is that this will allow any player in the Development Academy the opportunity to prove themselves in meaningful games. In other environments, sometimes some of the players didn’t play much, which could hinder their development and also their opportunities to be seen and given a chance at another level. This requirement should give every player a fair chance to show what they can do on a more consistent basis.”